EKN Trackside: Superkarts! USA Pro Tour SpringNationals – Saturday Report
Wimsett wins epic battle in S1, Zimmer claims first in TaG Senior
Joey Wimsett will lead a talented group of S1 drivers under the CRG-USA tent
(Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)
The opening round of the 2013 Superkarts! USA Pro Tour was a long yet eventful day at the Musselman Honda Circuit outside Tucson, Arizona. SpringNationals action was completed Saturday as the 227 entries kept the track busy with action with qualifying, two rounds of heat races and a main event for all eight categories competing. A bit of controversy developed in the TaG divisions regarding engine selection, a few drivers put in some dominating performances for their first victories of the season, and the chase to the SKUSA championships begins.
S1 Pro Stock Moto
The S1 category is filled with a number of champions and race winners this year as the Pro Tour starts its fourth season. The two drivers who ran 1-2 last year finished off the qualifying session that way as defending champ Fritz Leesmann (CRG) and vice-champ Joey Wimsett (CRG) were at the top of the time sheet in qualifying. Leesmann scored the pole position with a 48.247-second lap, Wimsett second, S2 champion Sabré Cook (CRG) an impressive third with 2012 S2 SuperNats winner Billy Musgrave (Tony Kart) in fourth.
Wimsett grabbed the holeshot to begin heat one as Leesmann slotted back to third with Musgrave the early charger. Leesmann would eventually work around Musgrave for the position and sat on the bumper of Wimsett to the checkered flag. Cook was the quickest driver on the track at the end of the race, working pass Musgrave to drop him to fourth and crossed the finish line right behind the top two drivers. Jimmy McNeil (CRG) showed speed as well, placing fifth to put 2011 champ Daniel Bray to sixth.
Leesmann struck back in heat two to score the win to even out the battle with Wimsett. The #2 plate grabbed the holeshot again over the defending champ as they ran 1-2 with Musgrave and Cook close behind. Leesmann struck quick, working past Wimsett before completing the opening lap. Wimsett kept is close as the top four ran together the entire time to the checkered flag. They ran that way the entire time with Cody Hodgson (Tony Kart) advancing up to the fifth spot.
The main event was one of the best Pro Tour S1 feature races to date, as the top four drivers went back and forth, putting on a show under the lights in Tucson. Leesmann grabbed the holeshot and was able to put Wimsett back to second right from the start. Musgrave and Cook rejoined them to form a four driver fight that lasted the entire 20-lap distance. As the race progressed, it seemed Cook had the edge as she dropped down fast lap after fast lap, trailing the top two. At the halfway mark, the battle picked up a level as Wimsett began his advances on Fritz. Deep into turn one, Wimsett took over the lead from Leesmann. A few laps later, Cook to her turn to show what she had, working past the two-time title winner in the same spot. It seemed they leaders got quicker and quicker, and the stop watch agreed as they clocked in the fast laps of the race the next few circuits. Cook kept the pressure on Wimsett, but in return, Leesmann was looking for a way by. On lap 18, he struck and moved inside, but Cook would not relinquish the spot as they went side by side through turns two and three. Leesmann came out with the position, as Wimsett was able to gap them. Lap 19, Cook showed she was ready for the S1 category, moving past Fritz with a great move in turn five. This gave Wimsett an even larger lead, as he cruised to the checkered flag. Leesmann drafted past Cook into turn one as they started the final circuit. He held Cook off to the checkered flag to secure the second spot, as Cook placed on the podium in her opening S1 main event. Musgrave finished fourth, just unable to make any moves into the top-three. Hodgson ran fifth the entire race as the rest of the field battled for top-10 positions.
The weekend began with some drama as a number of drivers elected to jump over to the Rotax engine, as it appeared to be the quicker engine of choice for the conditions in Tucson. Qualifying saw the top 14 drivers running a Rotax engine with Travis Lowe (Tony Kart) posting the quick lap of the session. He edged out defending champion Phil DeLaO (Arrow) by just two hundredths of a second. Veteran Brandon Jones (Arrow) put in an impressive lap to end the session in third.
Lowe was the early leader in heat one, with DeLaO and Jones both a victim of contact and were unable to finish. The jostling at the front of the field saw Jonathan May (FA Kart), who qualified fourth, come through with the win has he outran Jake Craig (Kosmic) and Matt Johnson (Energy) to the checkered flag. Andrew Zimmer (ART GP) posted the fast lap of the race in fourth with Lowe dropped to fifth in the order.
Heat two for TaG Senior provided another crazy 10-lap skirmish with May able to back up his first win with another. Early on, Craig and a host of other gave a strong challenge, but May regrouped and went back to the front for the win. The lead group was four until Johnson was able to catch the group after falling outside the top-five. After some jostling, Daughters was able to work up to second from sixth and Johnson into third. Craig finished fourth with Louie Pagano (Birel), continuing to improve his position as the day continued to be in fifth. It was a solid drive put in by Jones, who came from 32nd on the grid to finish 10th.
May led the TaG Senior field to begin the 20-lap main event as he attempted to score his first Pro Tour feature win. Early on, he led a quartet of drivers that included Pagano, Daughters and Johnson but as they shuffled for position, the lead pack grew to 10. During the jostling, Zimmer made his way to the point for the first time aboard his new ART GP America entry with Pagano trailing. They broke away until Johnson was able to run them down, setting up for a three-driver fight. Once Johnson caught them, Pagano made his move to the lead, but Zimmer returned right back to reclaim the position. All three measured each other up in the final few laps, with Zimmer able to keep them at bay and score his first victory. Pagano was able to slid past Johnson for the second spot in the final few corners. May settled for fourth to complete a solid day for the young driver, followed by sophomore Senior pilot Austin Dement (FA Kart). DB Motorsports driver TJ Koyen (Exprit) recovered from two off-track excursions in both heat races, putting in a stellar drive from 33rd on the grid to 10th, matching his similar performance from the SuperNationals LCQ race last November.
S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto
Home track advantage was in the favor of Pure Karting’s Augie Lerch (Tony Kart) as the Tucson driver topped the charts in qualifying for S2. His 48.156-second lap put him two-tenths clear of the 34 driver field with teammate Kolton Griffin (Tony Kart) and Axel Matus (GP) filling out the top-three.
Lerch used the pole position to clear the field to begin the opening heat race, as he was challenged by Matus the entire 10 laps. The two drove away from the rest of the class to go 1-2 as Christian Schureman (CRG) came up from sixth to third over Griffin and Troy Diede (CRG).
It was a wire to wire win for Lerch in heat two, as no one way able to match the pace he set in the second 10-lap battle. S2 rookie Matus ran second, but was challenged by the SKUSA #3 plate Cody Diede (CRG) the entire run. They gapped the rest of the field with Joshua De Losier (CRG) advancing from ninth to fourth with Garrett Boone (Birel) into fifth.
The S2 final was a great battle, however, it was for the second position as Lerch continued to dominate the category. Once the lights went out to start the 20-lap event, Lerch was untouchable as he kept up a pace no one could return on his home track. The 2012 Streets of Lancaster GP winner added a Pro Tour victory to his resume by pulling out a near six-second advantage. Matus held the second spot for the first half of race until a slight error dropped him back to fourth, allowing Boone and Ryan Kinnear (Intrepid) by for position. Kinnear continued driving forward on the day after qualifying 14th, and he and Boone fought for the runner-up position. In the end, Boone held the position and scored the second spot on the podium with Kinnear third. Matus ended a great performance on the day in third with Miguel Lopez (GP) up to fifth from tenth, putting four Texas ProKart Challenge drivers inside the top-10.
S4 Master Stock Moto
Familiar names led the S4 field in the qualifying session with Friday’s top driver Jordon Musser (Birel) posting the fast lap of the session. While he had a strong gap in practice, it was cut to just 77 thousandths of a second ahead of 2012 SpringNats winner Curtis Cooksey (CRG). Robert Marks (CRG) was third with defending champion Eddie Olpin (Kosmic) fourth in the order.
Musser got heavy pressure from Cooksey early on in heat one, as they exchanged the top spot a few times before Musser secured the position to the checkered flag. Marks dropped back early on but muscled his way back to third with Rob Logan (CRG) fourth and Olpin in fifth.
The 3G Kart Racing driver continued to show the way in heat two as he went unchallenged for the victory. The entire race was a battle of fast lap, with a number of drivers laying down the quickest time over the course of the 10-lap event. Musser, Cooksey and Brian Fisher (DR) driving up from 12th on the grid all took their turn with the fast lap honor. Musser scored the win with Cooksey getting the FT and the second spot. Marks ran third after a brief stint in second. Willy Musgrave (Tony Kart) got a great start and was into the top-five early, placing fourth ahead of Olpin and Logan. Fisher placed eighth as Canadian Don McGregor (Italkart) stole back the seventh spot on the final circuit.
Last year’s SpringNationals, Musser drove uncharacteristically both days, causing a number of incidents and took him out of the title chase early on. Today was a complete 180 from that as the Texan completed the sweep in dominating fashion. Away quickly as the lights went out to start the 20-lap main event, Musser drove away to a near six-second victory to start the year as the championship leader. Behind him was an epic battle for the second spot including five drivers. Musgrave got a great jump and was second on the opening lap over Marks, Olpin and Logan. Olpin advanced to third and on lap seven, went deep in the braking zone on Musgrave into turn one. The two made contact and Olpin spun around and retired from the event. This moved Cooksey back up to the second spot after he dropped outside the top-five at the start and the battle raged on, including DRT Racing driver Brian Fisher (DR) who recovered from a broken brake rotor in qualifying. Cooksey would come away with the second spot at the checkered flag with Marks able to slid into the third podium step. Logan settled for fourth with Fisher and Musgrave rounding out the top-six. Chris Jennings (DR) was a hard charger on the race, placing seventh after starting 29th in heat two.
Making his Pro Tour TaG Master debut, Texan Mike Jones (Sodi Kart) set the tone for the weekend as he clocked in as the quickest driver in their opening round qualifying session. Jones edged out 2012 vice-champion Scott Falcone (Arrow) by 36 thousandths of a second, with a 50.728-second lap. Three-time SuperNationals winner Billy Cleavelin was third in the order, setting up for an interesting day.
Things were crazy to begin heat one as several false start attempts came and after they got going, a wreck in turn 11 brought out a red flag. Kurt Fisher (Tony Kart) made hard contact with the tire wall but walked away. Jones, during the opening corner was drove over and the fuel line was knocked off. Because of the red flag, he was not able to rejoin the field. Falcone took advantage and drove away to the win, stretching out to a three-second advantage. 2011 SpringNats double winner Brian McHattie (Exprit) took advantage of all the drama and drove to a solid second spot, keeping Cleavelin at bay. Mirko Mizzoni (Italcorse) was fourth in the order with Anthony Honeywell (Exprit) in fifth.
Falcone led the entire 10-lap second heat race, running consistent lap times to stretch out to a two-second advantage. The fight for second place helped as McHattie and Cleavelin went back and forth with the Mike Manning Karting driver edging out the DB Motorsports pilot. Honeywell ran solo in fourth with Kevin Manning (Vemme) putting in a great driver to fifth from 11th.
It was a 20-lap battle in the TaG Master main event, filled with attrition and tempers following the race. Falcone however left the race all smiles as he went green-to-checkered to sweep the day. In the end, Falcone had to keep up the pace to secure the victory as defending champ Paul Bonilla (Tony Kart) came charging at the end. The Full Throttle Karting pilot qualified fourth and was running second in the opening heat until dropping a tire and falling outside the top-15. He charged to sixth in the second heat race, but was shuffled back at the start of the Final. Like a man on a mission, he fought his way forward lap after lap and eventually was second. Falcone ran out to large lead and Bonilla cut into the gap. At the end, the distance was only a few kart lengths as the top two drivers from last year finished 1-2. The battle for the final podium position came down to the end with Mizzoni able to fend off a charging Jones, who completed a strong recovery from his heat one DNF, as Cleavelin completed the top-five.
S5 Junior Stock Moto
The Stock Moto Junior class, for the third year in a row saw impressive growth in entry numbers as well as on track action. The youngest group of shifters provided just as good of racing as their elder counterparts Saturday. Carter Williams (FA Kart) kicked his 2013 Pro Tour off with a bang by nearly grabbing a clean sweep of the action on day one. Williams would put his FA kart on the pole and proceed to win the first heat race ahead of Patrico O’Ward (Birel).
In the second heat race O’Ward earned the hole shot off the line beating Williams to the first turn. Derek Scott Jr. (Tony Kart) made his name heard on the first day of action thanks to a good start in the second head moving up to his race high of fourth position. At the end of the race, Jarred Campbell (Intrepid) narrowly held off a hard charging Williams for the win.
Raul Guzman (GP) was the talk of the class in the main. Guzman marched from the back half of the grid at the start, to break up the four kart lead pack. Picking off Jim McKinney and then O’Ward, Guzman sat third on the leaderboard by halfway. Guzman ended up falling back as the race continued on, allowing the front foursome to continue their day long battle. While McKinney and O’Ward battled for the last spot on the podium contact was made in the last corner allowing Guzman to slip by for third. Up front, Williams held off Campbell for the first win of the S5 2013 season.
Sonny Cervelli (CRG) is a fan of the Tucson circuit, as he stood on the pole position back in January for the Rotax event, and was able to duplicate it today in the TaG Junior category. He put down a 50.698-second lap to secure the spot over Davey Manthei Jr. (Arrow) and Noah Grey (FA Kart).
After a false start to begin heat one, racing got underway with the field scattering through the opening corner. Yurik Carvalho (Italkart) was able to come through from sixth to the lead after the first lap. It was a three driver battle early but turned into eight by the end of the race. Austin Versteeg (CRG) was able to work his way to the point and held a slim advantage until Blaine Rocha (Kosmic) ran him down and passed for the win on the last lap. Versteeg settled for second with Carvalho in third. Emerson Reed (Top Kart) returned to fourth with Carter Williams (FA Kart) in fifth.
Rocha ran a clean race to win in heat two as the Rolison Performance Group driver pulled out to a solid lead over the fight for second. Williams was the driver on the move as he secured the second spot after a 10 lap battle with Manthei. Versteeg dropped back to fourth in the race with Cervelli back up to fifth from 10th on the grid. Grey retired early in heat one and put in a great drive to put himself back in contention, placing seventh after starting back in 23rd.
Rocha and Williams led the field to the green flag for the 20-lap main event but it was Rocha and Manthei who pulled away. The top two put distance on the rest of the class as a gaggle of karts fought for the third position. Manthei stayed locked onto Rocha’s bumper lap after lap until the 18th circuit when the KartSport North America driver pulled the trigger. Deep into turn four, Manthei led for the first time and through to the white flag. Down the back straight for the last time, Manthei provide Rocha plenty of room as they went side to side through the final few corners. At the line, Rocha scored his first Pro Tour victory with Manthei settling for second. Completing a stellar drive back inside the top-five, Grey drove his Phil Giebler Racing entry back in contention. As they fought for the third position, Noah eventually came away with the position and drove away and held it to the checkered flag for an impressive podium finish. The fight then became one for fourth with Versteeg claiming the position over Williams. Defending champion Luke Selliken (Kosmic) arrived late to Tucson, making it in time for the start of heat one, came from the tail end of the field to place sixth, after running as high as third at one point.
Chase Farley got the new season off on the right foot in TaG Cadet, winning the pole position in qualifying with a lap of 55.797. The Energy driver laid down a great lap, which was over three tenths of a second clear of Nick Brueckner (Birel). Anthony Willis (DR Kart) was just 0.007 seconds behind Brueckner in third, while Roy Fulmer IV (Arrow) and Jagger Jones (Tony Kart) capped the fast five.
Farley would lead the opening heat race from the flash of the lights, setting up an early race dice as he paced the front-running quartet that featured Brueckner, Robb, Willis and Fulmer. Farley stretched his lead to almost two seconds by the midway point, but the pairing of Brueckner and Robb teamed up to reel in the leader, working the draft in a big way. They ran out of laps during their rundown attempt, and spent the final pass down the backstraight fighting for second as Fraley took the checker unchallenged. Brueckner was able to hold off Robb at the line for second. Robb asserted his position in the second heat race, taking the lead and pulling away to the victory over Farley. Fulmer stepped up and was able to slip in front of Brueckner with two laps remaining to lead a seven-kart pack that made up the third through ninth position.
In the main event, Farley again flexed his muscles in taking the lead and stretching away to the win. The race was ended one lap early as an incident involving an injured driver would have brought out a red flag that would have ended the race anyway. Farley scored the win, but the issue hurt Robb’s chances of battling Willis for second as he had positioned himself for the last lap passing attempt. Trenton Sparks (FA Kart) and Ryan Schartau (Top Kart) capped the top-five. A driver of note was Dezel West (Nevoso), who powered his way into second before getting involved in an incident that dropped him to 22nd.
A big thank you to the entire SKUSA staff, who braved the 80 degree weather and stood on-track for roughly 12 hours straight with little to no break. Sunday is a new round and completely new day, giving drivers a chance to duplicate their success from Saturday or redeem themselves from the heartache of the opening round of the SKUSA Pro Tour.